Monday, 7 September 2009

[LIVE REVIEW] Explosions in the Sky, Spring and Airbrake, Belfast, 06/09/09

This post-rock 3-piece come from Texas, and tonight graced the Spring and Airbrake in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fresh off the tour circuit and a stint down at Electric Picnic in Laios, one could be forgiven for worrying would they be playing at full steam tonight?
First band on the bill were ‘Plastic Rose’ called onto the support slot at last minute apparently. There can only be so many ‘Biffy Clyro’ rip-off bands in the world, and these guys are another one who just aren’t needed. They would also do well to find a better band to rip off as well.
Taking a look around during the break, it was hard to believe so many people could be fitted into the Spring Onion, I would estimate the venue was definitely pushing its 500 capacity. There was a fantastic buzz about the venue that I haven’t felt in a long time in there.
Around 10 pm, the band came on and tore straight into the exotic “First Breath After Coma”, and I don’t say this about many bands, but they are much better live than on record. They were able to capture that dreamy atmosphere impeccably, and you just couldn’t help but stand for long periods during the set with your eyes closed and take it all in. There was a fantastic aura about the band and you could only immerse yourself in it and lose yourself among the music.
All doubts about performance were immediately put to bed as soon as the first notes kicked in, and the band gave absolutely everything, even coming back out after the end explaining to the fans why the couldn’t do an encore; because they had put the whole damn world into their performance and couldn’t physically do any more. That’s dedication. I would advise anyone who regards themselves as a music fan to go see them asap. You may even get to see Natalie Portman too.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Today's Buys

Had a trip into the big smoke earlier. Managed to pick up a 12" of Cabaret Voltaire's arguably most famous song, 'Nag Nag Nag' remixed by Tiga and Akufen. Had to fend off a long haired freak who was kinda like one of those old ladies who sit and watch you playing slot machines until you leave. Haven't listened to it yet though as I currently do not possess a record player at my house. Oh well. Also picked up 'Drawing DOwn the Moon' from bestial Black metal legends Beherit, something I should have done along time ago. Having had the album on cd-r for the guts of 8 years I finally have a hard copy. Wayhey. Last but not least, 'Henry's Dream' by good old Nick Cave. Probably his most underappreciated album. Reviews coming soon!

One of the most iconic black metal photos ever? Probably.

DJ Set

All you mongos out there give me some bangin' choons to play at my DJ slot next October/Novemeber. Industrial and Goth, no Isis please.

[ALBUM REVIEW] Antim Grahan - Tales From the Darkened Woods

1. Calls from Void
2. Loards of Misery and Sorrow
3. Sanctuary of Eternal Black Hearts
4. Her Demise
5. Grey Mourning Kingdom
6. Hallowed be the Name (Iron Maiden cover)
7. My Forlorn Supreme Pain

+ 'Forever Winter' EP

1. From Orphaned Land
2. Infected
3. Forever Winter
4. Angels Eternally Burn
5. Spectral Vision
6. In Love With Suside

Well this is a strange one. Antim Grahan come from Nepal. Not exactly the metal mecca of the world. Now I will admit, I have no idea about the Nepali underground metal scene, nor did I even ever expect to hear anything from it, but I would be surprised if these guys weren’t on the verge of something big, especially being the first metal band from the country to aquire a record deal, with the underground KTMROCKS Records based, surprisingly, in Kathmandu. I found out about this album through a friend who happened to be in the country, and upon asking them to bring me back “some obscure Nepalese death metal”, they brought me back this. This isn’t death metal, but rather black metal in the vein of acts such as Cradle of Filth, Graveworm, Agathodaimon and the ilk. Don’t let that put you off though, as there is no band I currently despise more than latter day CoF, but this is heavily akin to their early work, which is rather good.

The album starts off with a rather pointless intro awash with synth and plinky plonky keys, something which I just find rather pointless, and irks me a lot. Intro tracks are very rarely ever worthwhile, just instead serving to fill up a bit of time on the disk. Upon hearing the first track, ‘Cradle of Filth’ comparisons are inevitable, and it’s not hard to see why, but thankfully, the vocals here are a lot better than those of Dani’s caterwauling; lacerating and vicious. Riffwise, its fantastic, full of turbulent riffs sweeping throughout each song and some nice lead work as well. The drumming is very competent, and thank god they didn’t use a drum machine, as many do, as it would totally ruin the atmosphere. It just doesn’t suit this type of music.

The main thing that sets it apart from the menagerie of other symphonic black metal bands is the balance between the synth and guitar. The synth here is kept in its place, it isn’t swamping the guitar and drowning it out. Symphonic Black metal which is saturated with synth just sounds too saccharine to these ears and is an instant no-no. The songs never repeat themselves, each song is fairly dynamic, changing at just the right time preventing repetitiveness, and each song on the album varies a large amount from the others. The production could be a bit beefier though, the guitar is slightly tinny, and there is a distinct lack of bass, but it’s not a massive problem. This is a genre of Black Metal which I am not a fan of, so from me this is a high accolade, because I prefer this to any of Cradle of Filths latest output. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, but it is a solid slab of symphonic black metal which should please all you pseudo-vampires out there. Oh and one last thing, lose the female vocals, they are horrendous. I look forward to hearing more from this band.



Friday, 4 September 2009

Big 4 Tour?

So apparently Kerry King tells us that Lars Ulrich from Metallica is plotting a ‘big 4’ of thrash world tour which would include Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. In a fucking million years Kerry. This potential tour has FAIL written all over it. As if Dave is over his departure from Metallica yet, no matter what he says. Dave and James will never share a stage. Take into account the bitching that will occur about the running order and who plays where. More than likely it will end up with a fight in which Kerry King trying to beat the shit out of everyone, John Bush getting fired, Lars threatening to sue the shit out of everyone and Dave praying to the holy lord above to get everyone kicked off the bill but himself. Now that, I would pay to see.

[ALBUM REVIEW] Enforcer - Into the Night

1. Black Angel
2. Mistress from Hell
3. Into the Night
4. Speed Queen
5. On the Loose
6. City Lights
7. Scream of the Savage
8. Curse the Light
9. Evil Attacker

I must admit that at first I was pretty skeptical of these guys. Thinking, "Ah this will just be another forgettable thrash act hopping on the 'new age of thrash' bandwagon. Far from it in fact. This four- piece hail from Sweden, and they wear their influences on their sleeves. If you imagine what you would get from the spwan of Exciter, 'Kill Em All' era Metallica and Cloven Hoof then you may be coming close to what these guys sound like, with more emphasis on the Exciter comparison than the others.

The album couldn't start off in a better way, opening with a short bit of noodling on the bass and then tearing straight into a vicious riff which obliterates all sense of doubt about this quartet. The first thing I noticed was that the vocals were very high-pitched, akin to that of Dan Beehler of Exciter fame, although not quite as rough. In fact these guys might as well be Exciter mark II, and that's definitely not a bad thing. We then get a taste of what's to come around the 2:10 mark, a pure face melting solo, something the new breed of thrash bands are missing: good fucking honest solos. Next song, 'Mistress from Hell' appeared on the 'Speed Kills' compilation released by Heavy Artillery in 2007 along with labelmates Warbringer, Avenger of Blood, Hatred and Toxic Holocaust. With the exception of Toxic Holocaust, this album destroys everything any of those other bands have ever done. The current version of the song is far better produced and beefier than the original version. The title track continues in the same fashion as before and you will find it hard to resist the temptation to shout along to the chorus. Catchy is an understatement. "Speed Queen" ploughs in about as subtle as a fist to the face, and to be honest, if you even tried to headbang to this song you'd end up contracting a brain aneurysm, it's that fucking awesome. The next song, "On the Loose" would probably be my favourite on the album if I had to pick one. It is the slowest song on the album, although that isn't saying much. It is a bit more rocky, less chaotic than the rest of the songs, and sounds a bit like something Cloven Hoof would have produced in their early career, instrumental- wise anyway. The chorus here is so infectious it's not funny. Why can't all modern speed metal be this good? Next up is 'City Lights', an instrumental, and also the longest song on the album. It reminds me a lot of 'Transylvania' at the beginning, and has a very NWOBHM sound to it, sounding pretty much like something Iron Maiden could have easily come up with, only a slight bit faster. At the end the song slows down, and all emphasis is on the lead guitar which closes out the song. I tend to find most instrumentals boring, but definitely not this one. "Scream of the Savage" easily sounds as if it an outtake from "Kill 'em All" . Second last song "Curse the Light" continues as before with some great vocal lines, and half way through we get what is probably the best solo of the album. Closer "Evil Attacker" is pure unrelenting thrash. If this doesn't even get a slight bit of vertical motion from your neck then you should just revoke your metal licence and stop listening to metal altogether.

One of the first things I noticed about this album is that the bass plays a very prominent role. It is much more audible than in most thrash outfits today, and it doesn't just follow the guitars either, the bass is actually allowed to do it's own thing for once as well as provide a foundation for the rest of the music. Steve Harris seems to be a big influence on Joseph's playing, which utilises the 'galloping' sound alot, but instead of just ripping him off, he adds his own unique touch to the playing as well, creating some very interesting bass lines.
The drums are also well-executed, and keep well away from being repetitive.
The vocals also need mentioning. Much different from that of their peers, as mentioned before, Olof Wikstrand's vocals are very high pitched and are the forefront of the music, ranging from mid range to falsetto. And not forgetting the infectious choruses.

The album is an unrelenting onslaught of destructive riffs; every single one makes you want to headbang along, and every single solo is very well thought out and executed, something that thrash metal these days is severely lacking in.

So dig out your air guitar, stick on a pair of drainpipe jeans, Nike Hi-Tops and sleeveless shirt, and do yourself a favour and obtain this album at all costs, as it is the best thing to come out of the new thrash scene yet. No, it isn't in anyway original, but hell, what is these days anyway? What it is, is a blitzkrieg of pure neck-wrecking, vigourous speed/thrash metal and if you're a fan of bands such as Exciter, Agent Steel and Razor then you'll love these speedsters. My personal album of the year.



[ALBUM REVIEW] Chambercraft - Last Cast

1. Last Cast
2. Speaking to Darkness

Northern Ireland? Yes you heard right. This one man black metal project originates from an area not exactly , famous for its spiteful, scuzzy black metal, but don't dismiss it as yet another forgettable 'run of the mill' bedroom black metal project. Contrary to the drum machines many solo black metal bands use, the drums on this record are done by Sam himself, along with all the other instruments. This short, two track ten inch is, to put it bluntly, an asphyxiating journey through a despondent mind, a manifestation stoked by anger and despair.

The A side, "Last Cast", starts off with a few seconds of feedback then a short count in on the sticks and immediately we are then thrown into a pounding bass drum rhythm at an ominously slow speed, with the buzzing, raw guitar work weaving in and out between each beat, immediately hypnotising you and submersing you in the blackness. The vocals emerge, a menacing, typical low black metal growl, not unlike that of Wrest from Leviathan's vocals on his older work. The song continues with this pulsating rhythm until about four minutes in, whereupon we're greeted with a harsh guitar lead until, at around six minutes, everything cuts out except the guitar. It goes on picking a soft, dissonant melody for a minute or so, then crashes into more chaos and back to almost the same rhythm as before except this time, the guitar riff is slightly faster until it fades out to the end of the song. The menacing drumming and relentless guitar work create this atmosphere of grief and regret over the loss of a loved one, it draws you in and refuses to let go, inducing you into a trance you can't escape from until the very end.

The next song, Speaking to Darkness, is my personal favourite. Starting off with some very slow, trudging guitar work, then morphing into a malicious, slow riff. The vocals in this song are slightly different to the last, more shrieked than before, with some slight effects used on them, creating a psychotic, terrifying aura. This song also contains some very good guitar leads, which is unusual for black metal, serving to convey this atmosphere of dread. Towards the end of the song things move up a gear and the terror becomes insanity, finally breaking down and creating the impression that everything is worthless, nothing but a forlorn and destitute spirit is left as the last notes fade out. The music could almost be described as black/doom in a way, although it's difficult to think of a comparison, as it isn't particularly Depressive Black or Funeral Doom.

The production for this EP is the usual low-fi production associated with black metal bands such as this - raw and crude. My only gripe about this release would be that the drums could be a bit lower in the mix and the guitars a bit higher; the vocals are perfect in my opinion. The bass can barely be heard, but that doesn't bother me too much. If you are a fan of slow-paced black metal then definitely try and check this out as it is a fine piece of work and deserves a lot of attention. Keep an eye out for this project in future, it could be due for great things.